Homo Faber Study Guide

Homo Faber

Homo Faber by Max Frisch

Homo Faber is a 1957 novel by Max Frisch with themes of fate, technology versus humanity and love. Walter Faber impregnates his lover Hanna, who does not wish to marry him and, agrees to have an abortion. Years later, Faber begins an affair with a young woman named Sabeth. On a hunch, he inquires about her mother and discovers that she is actually his and Hanna's daughter, who was never aborted. Sabeth dies in Greece after falling off of a cliff and Faber reunites with Hanna before dying.

During the 1930s, Walter Faber, who works at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, meets the art student Hanna. The two become lovers, and one day Hanna reveals that she is pregnant. Faber asks her to marry him, but she hesitates. Faber receives an offer by Escher Wyss to work in Baghdad and he accepts it; he and Hanna split up. Before his departure, Faber asks his friend Joachim to take care of Hanna, and Hanna agrees to abort their child.

In spring 1957, Faber recounts the events of his travels in America. On a flight from New York to Mexico, his plane makes a forced landing in the desert. During the following stay he meets the German Herbert, who turns out to be the brother of Joachim, Faber's friend. Faber had not heard from his friend since 1936. Faber decides to accompany Herbert, who is on his way to visiting his brother. After an odyssey through the wilderness, they reach Joachim's plantation. But Joachim has hanged himself. Herbert decides to stay behind and manage the plantation.

Faber returns to New York City, but meets up with his married mistress, Ivy. Looking to escape their relationship, Faber takes an unplanned cruise to Europe. On this journey, he meets the young woman Sabeth, with whom he falls in love. He proposes to Sabeth at the end of the journey, but she is traveling with a male friend. Faber and Sabeth meet again in Paris and Faber decides to go on vacation and accompany Sabeth on a road trip through Europe, where they also start a sexual relationship. Faber even calls the trip their "honeymoon".

Because of a foreboding, he asks Sabeth for the name of her mother: Hanna. Faber still hopes that Hanna has aborted their child, but it turns out soon that Sabeth is his daughter. In Greece, where Hanna now lives, a poisonous snake bites Sabeth. She falls backwards after seeing Walter come naked out of the ocean, and is soon rushed to the hospital by Faber. There he meets his former love Hanna again. Luckily Sabeth survives the snakebite. However she suddenly dies due to an untreated fracture in her skull caused by the fall. Faber feels a certain measure of guilt as he had not mentioned Sabeth falling.

Stricken by grief and stomach cancer, Faber realizes the beauty he has missed and finds redemption in Hanna. In the end, Faber undergoes operation for his stomach cancer, and the novel ends on an inconclusive note.

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